The next generation
The world depends upon the skills of good project managers, but where will the next generation come from? Mark Holmes has some ideas.
Ask any client to list what makes a successful project and it’s likely that a good project manager will feature somewhere near the top of the list.
From assembling a team, through to managing project partners and overseeing on-site safety, all the way through to the final stages of project completion, project managers play a pivotal role in the smooth running of any major project.
Attracting, developing and retaining the next generation of project managers is, therefore, crucial to the long-term health of the industry. But one of the biggest challenges that it faces is the shortage of highly trained people. According to the Office for National Statistics, from February-April 2013 to March-May 2015, the number of vacancies in construction, for example, rose by 133 per cent – from 12,000 to 28,000.
Given the growing demand and competition for experienced project managers, we need to be looking at innovative ways to attract and develop people from outside the sector. Not only will this help to address the shortage, it will also bring new ways of thinking.
Businesses that fail to build a diverse workforce risk missing out on a broader skill set and new ways of thinking, all of which can add value to their business. So it’s good to see the industry taking proactive steps to improve the retention and development of female employees. Last year, the Women into Science and Engineering (WISE) Campaign and the Royal Academy of Engineering launched a 10-point action plan to improve the retention and development of female employees, which was signed by more than 20 engineering, science and technology firms. Besides being a signatory to WISE, Mace has also launched its own Women of the Future programme to help develop female talent across the business. But these are all first steps, and, as an industry, we should be doing more to recognise and celebrate the benefits of greater diversity in the sector.
One of the most exciting developments in our industry has been the use of technology, which offers enormous opportunities to undertake even more complex projects. Future leaders have a big role to play in evolving this technology and applying it to all aspects of project management.
A focus of graduate programmes should, therefore, be to immerse graduates in the full spectrum of project management, exposing them to a wide variety of technologies and, in doing so, providing them with the broader experience that will enable them to become more balanced professionals.
Offering graduates a clear career development path is important for motivating the next generation of project managers. If graduates have an opportunity to develop their skills and experience at an early stage in their careers, then they are far more likely to pursue a long-term career as a project manager. That’s why initiatives such as The 5% Club, which is focused on addressing high levels of youth unemployment and tackling the UK’s skills shortage, make sense on both a social and business level. Membership commits businesses to ensuring that 5 per cent of their workforce consists of either apprentices, graduate trainees or sponsored students by 2020.
It is essential that we attract talented individuals to project management at an early stage of their careers and help them to develop their skills, knowledge and capability. That’s the only way we will take the industry forward and develop the next generation of industry leaders.
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Myths have existed since the dawn of time. Predating books, they were often stories told to make sense of things that people didn’t understand. In business, project management attracts more than its fair share of myths.